Tag Archives: jessica gets a job and quits a job

SVH #123: Elizabeth’s Rival

11 Mar

elixabethsrival

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

It’s summer vacation in Sweet Valley YET AGAIN, and Jessica and Elizabeth, along with Lila for some reason, are about to head off to Montana for a month long gig as junior counselors at a performing arts camp.  Liz is excited because one of her best friends from middle school, Maria Slater, is moving back to Sweet Valley and MIRACULOUSLY also joining the fun as a JC at the camp in Montana.  Jessica’s excited because she’s sure it’s her chance to finally become famous after being discovered.  She also makes a vow that it’s a summer with no boys, because she’s back to being sad about the death of Christian.  Lila hopes to only meet dudes, so the girls are at odds off the bat.

Things move along at a nice clip.  Within minutes of arriving, Liz has met Joey Mason, a super cute counselor who leads the acting workshops.  She’s attracted to him immediately.  Jessica starts to tire of Lila’s constant whining and wonders if she’ll manage to last the month listening to her complain.  When Maria shows up, Liz is overjoyed and then horrified when she realizes that Maria’s new best friend, Nicole Banes, is a total snot whom Elizabeth hates immediately.

Although Liz thinks that there must be something redeeming about Nicole since she’s Maria’s best friend, she plays like a total parody of a villain. She hides her own diary under Liz’s mattress and then accuses her of stealing it, then she steals the disk Liz has saved her script for the camp play on and passes it off as her own.  It seems that no one believes Liz, and it’s also clear that Joey is totally favoring Nicole over Liz.  It isn’t until Jessica accidentally sees evidence of Nicole taunting Liz about the play on camera (one of her campers is a little filmmaker) that she realizes what’s going on.  She shows it to the whole camp and Liz not only wins back Maria’s friendship but also the affection of Joey, who is now totally into Liz.  She tells him that she and Todd are in an open relationship, which backfires when Todd shows up at the camp.

Meanwhile, Lila falls for a guy named Bo, who comes off as a brave adventurer.  Lila tries to pretend she’s one, too, but is confused by how cowardly Bo actually seems to be.  Finally he comes clean to her: he’s actually the son of a millionaire.  They have tons in common! They kiss!

Jessica reluctantly falls for Paul, the older brother of one of her campers.  I AM SO BORED AND THERE ARE TWO MORE BOOKS IN THIS MINI-SERIES.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • According to this book, Robbie Goodman moved away to attend art school.  Did we know this? I literally can’t remember.
  • Jessica’s in charge of the dance classes, Liz is put on sailing duty, and Lila’s got arts and crafts covered.
  • Lila wears a periwinkle blue raw-silk romper with pearl buttons for her first day as a counselor, because of course she does.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Now that we’re both wet, come here and give me a hug!” The girls hugged for a long time, rocking side to side. (39)
  • Do I look like the kind of girl who would cheat on her boyfriend? she asked her reflection. No, she answered herself. (56) [Are you fucking kidding me?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Analysis:

I don’t know, haven’t we already done the camp thing to death already?  Lila and Jessica were counselors at Lila’s uncle’s resort that one time, and all of these people worked as JCs with overly-precocious kids in the far-superior Todd’s Story.  So yeah, I’m totally over the camp counselor thing they have going on.

What’s also distressing is that there isn’t even enough story here to sustain the 200-page book, let alone 2 more books.  It just doesn’t make any sense, and it isn’t fun.  UGH.

Also, what’s up with Nicole?  Why is she so terrible?  Why doesn’t she have any actual motivations?  How is it so completely out of the realm of possibility that anyone could hate Liz for an actual, legitimate reason?  I hate Liz and I like to think my reasons are wholly rational and air-tight.

SVH Super Thriller #9: A Stranger in the House

6 Feb

stranger

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

For some bizarre reason, it is summer vacation AGAIN.  Steven is home and working at Ned’s law office, and the twins stranger 2have both gotten jobs at the Marina Cafe as waitresses.  Jessica thinks it’s going to be all hot guys and big tips, but Liz is, predictably, much more practical about the entire endeavor.  When Jessica points out that Liz is in a rut, she actually agrees and wonders if she can shake things up.  Their first day of waitressing entails a lot of running around and getting mixed up by the restaurant’s manager.  Liz leaves with Todd for a date and Jessica ends up meeting  handsome young man named Scott Maderlake who tells her he’s a scout for a television series.  The two flirt and make plans for a date.

Meanwhile, Ned Wakefield is obsessing over news that convicted murderer John Marin is being release 15 years early from prison.  Ten years prior, Ned put him away while working as an assistant district attorney.  Before Marin was locked up, he swore he’d get his revenge on Ned by coming at him through his family.  Worried about the safety of his children, Ned leaps at the chance to send Steven down to San Diego for a month to work on a case, and frets over Liz and Jess’s safety.

When Ned receives a threatening card from someone who signs it “JM,” he is sure it’s from Marin.  But the police basically tell him that they can’t do anything unless Marin violates parole, which he does about five minutes later, as he gave his PO a fake address.  But now no one can figure out where Marin went, so they have to look for him.  In a panic, Ned calls in a favor to a PI friend and arranges to have someone follow Jess and Liz during the day, for their “protection.” He doesn’t tell the girls–or even Alice–this, of course.  This will end well.

Of course, Marin is already in Sweet Valley, has already broken into the Wakefield home, and has gathered intel on the twins and their lives.  He’s also set up a phone tap on the house phone, because of course he has.  So he’s one step ahead of Ned (or, like, seven, but whatever).  Ned continues to receive threatening mail from him, including an envelope with Jessica’s lavalier necklace.

Liz locks eyes with a mysterious cute boy at the Dairi Burger one night and thinks he might be her soulmate because he’s writing in a notebook.  When he shows up at the cafe the next day, she finds out from Jane that he’s living on a boat and is a writer.  Liz practically swoons.  When she finally gets a chance to talk to him a few days later, she finds out that his name is Ben Morgan.  They take a walk along the docks.

In fact, both twins continue to see their new dudes (who is totally the same person but whatever) in secret, not even telling each other about their newfound love.  When Ned asks tensely if either girl has met anyone new or unusual lately, they both lie, and it’s clear that they are both lying.  Ned doesn’t tell the girls about the necklace and though he worries about it and Jim the PI tells him it’s important to know which twin it came from, he continues to sit on it.

The police call Ned with good news: they’ve arrested who they think John Marin is.  But then the twins are attacked while closing the cafe one night, and when they ID the man they think did it, it’s the dude the police had already arrested.  It becomes clear that Marin set this guy up to take the fall.  Although both twins know about John Marin and their father’s past now, Elizabeth still sneaks out to meet Ben for a midnight sail.  Ned is distracted by the fact that Marin has killed Jim, his PI.  The police also find the body of the security detail that was hired to watch over Jess and Liz.  What a murdering spree!

Once Jessica figures out that Liz isn’t with Todd like she said (because he calls the house), she and Ned and the police rush to the beach disco to interrogate Jane about who Liz has been seeing in secret.  They go to find the boat and end up sending out the coast guard (and riding along, because why not) to meet the boat.  John tries to kill Elizabeth with a knife but she stomps on his foot and runs towards the back of the boat while he heads towards the dinghy to make an escape.  She nearly drowns, but Jessica saves her.

At home, the police show up and tell the twins they found bloody remnants of Marin’s jacket and that he’s believed to have been eaten by sharks.  Because that’s the most logical explanation for his disappearance.  The twins rest easy for approximately five minutes before Marin shows up, having hidden in the basement and drugging Prince Albert.  Marin hits Ned with a piece of wood and goes upstairs to kill the twins.  Before he can, Ned storms in and throws him against a wall.  Then Marin jumps out a window. I’m not sure why.

The police arrest Marin and all is well with the world.  OR IS IT?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The Marina Cafe makes their waitresses wear turquoise polo shirts and khaki shorts. Glamorous!
  • Ned has “progressive views on rehabilitation”
  • Jane has just graduated college but at one point she sees Todd and says, “If I were ten years younger…” So, you’d be into him when you were 12? WHAT?
  • “Ben’s” boat is named Emily Dickinson

Memorable Quotes:

  • “After ten years in prison, there isn’t much I don’t know about picking a lock.” (37) [Wait, what?!]
  • “Calm down, Ned. Your daughters are attractive girls. They might not have realized that this was different from the kind of surveillance they must be used to from men.” (174)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

My first issue with the book is the entire concept of John Marin.  First of all, he committed a horrific crime, was convicted of it, and was up for parole in 10 years.  He murdered two people brutally, which under California law would have made him eligible to be tried under a Capital offense, unless I’m mistaken (I’m no lawyer like Ned, but I think this is right).  So he wouldn’t be up for parole.  But even if he hadn’t been tried under that, he still wouldn’t have been eligible for parole after 10 years.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Not even for a pretty white dude in prison.

But then there’s the complete ridiculousness of Ned Wakefield.  He tells no one in his family that he’s worried about John Marin, even after John Marin has started to break into the house.  This is not the reaction of a human being who loves his family.  This is the reaction of a person who has lost his grip on reality, or someone who secretly wants his family dead (can’t blame him there).  It makes no sense.

My favorite part of this book was when the police show up with scraps of the windbreaker Marin was wearing on the boat and they tell the Wakefields that there’s blood on the clothes and it’s being tested for a DNA match, but it’s only a “formality” because they’re sure Marin is dead. I actually laughed out loud, because this is legitimately the dumbest thing I have heard, maybe ever.

SVH #101: The Boyfriend War

18 Jun

theboyfriendwar

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 week

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Lila are spending the week of spring break in Jamaica, at Lila’s uncle Jimmo’s beach resort, Club Paradise.  Jessica won’t shut up about how excited she is, and Lila is being extra nice to her.  When they arrive, Jessica discovers that her luggage was lost in the layover.  It also becomes clear to Jess why Lila was being so nice: they’re working as camp counselors at the kiddie version of the club. She tells Lila she’ll never forgive her/never speak to her again.

Jessica gets saddled with a group of bratty five-and-six-year-olds for the week.  They bicker, do gross things, and generally don’t listen to her.  She’s infuriated to see that Lila’s group is much better behaved, and then she’s fascinated when she sees Lila talking to a super hot guy who turns out to be the windsurfing instructor named Mick Myers.

Of course they both end up going out with this guy, who is a total skeeze.  Jessica dumps her campers off on Charles, a geeky guy who is totally into her.  This pisses off Julia, another counselor who is described as “chubby” but has a lovely voice.  She decides to get even with Jessica, because Jessica told her she was too fat to attract a man.  I kind of hate Jessica, too.

At any rate, Jessica and Lila continue to both date Mick and compete with each other when it comes to their little campers and the daily talent shows.  Meanwhile, Julia also starts dating Mick, who is starting to seem like a pathological liar and also a sex addict.  He takes each girl to his “secret” lagoon to make out.

Jessica runs into Larry the hot lifeguard on the beach one day, and they flirt.  Then they run into Lila and Mick, who are clearly on a date, and Jessica is such an idiot that she thinks Mick is only pretending to like her because her uncle is his boss.  They have a stupid game of chicken in the ocean and all of them get dunked.

It isn’t long before they realize that Mick is totally playing them.  After Jessica slaps Lila and she pulls her into the ocean with her as she falls, the two have a good laugh and decide to get revenge.  They get back to their cabin to find out that Mick is literally dating every female employed at the camp.

The last night of camp, Lila and Jessica put on a magician’s show and use Mick as their audience “volunteer.”  They break his watch, cut his hair, and dye it purple, and he has to sit and take it.  They get their revenge, totally make up as friends, and have a lemonade.  All is well.

Elizabeth has plans to spend the break sweating it out in Sweet Valley.  She wants to work on an Honors English project that asks students to do a biography of an ancestor.  Conveniently, Liz has chosen to focus on her mother.  The problem is, Alice has just accepted a freelance position working with Hank Patman in his Chicago office.

Amy shows up at the Wakefield’s house to ask for help with the English assignment, which she has to do for extra credit.  She doesn’t tell Elizabeth that Jessica told her she could “borrow” her ancestor Jessamyn, the circus performer.  The two look at an old family tree of Alice’s.

She runs into Bruce at the Dairi Burger and he blows up at her about her home-wrecker of a mother. She thinks he’s cracked until she gets home to find Alice rushing off to catch a plane to Chicago with Hank Patman.  She grills her dad for information about Alice’s life before they met, but he’s sort of cheerfully vague about it all.  She starts to worry that Bruce might be right.

Instead of really working on her project, she continues to obsess about her mother’s past with Hank.  She manages to awkwardly tie it into every single old classic movie she goes to see with Enid and Olivia that week, arguing with them about the meaning of leaving a fiance for an old flame, etc.  It’s boring and pedantic.

Bruce Patman is feeling the pains of his parents splitting up.  He lashes out even more than usual and feels the sads about his family fighting.  His mother accuses Hank of cheating on her.  He decides he’s going to tell his father exactly what he thinks of their separation and how its impacting his life.  Bruce is insufferable.  Before he can do so, he overhears a conversation between Hank and Alice on the phone that leads him to believe the two are carrying on an affair.

Bruce and Liz meet several times to discuss their parents affair, which they are sure Alice and Hank are having.  Bruce seems to be working on a plan to split them up before serious damage is done, but he doesn’t bother to share it with anyone.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • It seems like everyone is going away for spring break: Barry Rork to Palm Springs, Pamela Robertson to the Grand Canyon, Ken Matthews to Monterey, Todd to Yosemite.
  • Lila still plays the marimba and listens to Jamie Peters’ music.
  • The old movies Liz, Olivia, and Enid see include My Favorite Wife, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, and Casablanca.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Bruce grabbed the lunch tray and hurled it away. He heard it clatter against a tree trunk and imagined that it was the sound of his whole world shattering into pieces.” (7)
  • “They turned to gape as Lila walked by with her nose in the air. In a straight line behind her, six obedient kindergartners waddled like baby geese, singing in unison, ‘Row, row, row your yacht…'” (51)
  • “‘Do you like my picture, Jessica?’ Suzy asked. ‘It’s a picture of you screaming at us.'” (81)
  • “Elizabeth had amnesia and her defenses were down. Bruce had tried to take advantage of her–what guy wouldn’t?” (165) [IS THIS REAL LIFE?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

Perhaps what’s oddest here is not that Jessica and Lila compete over the same dude, which has happened before, but the fact that Mick seems interested in anything with a vagina.  He literally dates something like six girls at once, and he’s also supposed to be the club’s full-time windsurfing instructor.  How does he manage to do this?  How can all the girls think that he’s only interested in them when he’s literally seen with other people in every scene?  There is virtually nothing about him that would indicate he oozes charm (except for the fact that we are told this).  Ugh.  Gross.

The other thing that really bothered me about this one is how fucking judgmental and antiquated Elizabeth is in her thinking about her mother.  She holds fast to this bizarre, sexist idea that a woman should only be in love once–and that she should marry that man.  Setting aside the fact that this is heteronormative drivel, it’s also so tone-deaf considering the fact that Elizabeth has been in love at least 3-4 times herself, and she is only 16 years old.   Is she damaged in some way?  Isn’t it possible that Alice was in love with Hank at one time, and then fundamentally changed and fell in love with Ned?

Also, could it be LESS of Elizabeth’s business?

Super Thriller #5: Murder on the Line

12 May

murder on the line

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth are working as interns at the Valley News for what appears to be the second time, because they are driving the Jeep and the back of the book mentions the word “again” as if this is the second time, but it’s really, really hard to tell.  At any rate, it is their second week on the job, Jessica is already bored, and Elizabeth is totally kissing the ass of the newest hire, Bill Anderson.  Because of construction going on near the newspaper’s building (construction being done to create the tallest building in downtown Sweet Valley, courtesy of George Fowler), the paper’s phone lines are a total mess.  People keep intercepting other calls, and this is probably the thing that Jessica finds most interesting about her days at the paper.  She eavesdrops on a ton of calls until she hears a man identifying as “Greenback” threaten to kill someone else.  When she tells Liz about it, Liz brushes it off.  Jessica leaves work early to meet Lila at the beach, and the two are sunbathing when someone screams because a body has just washed up on shore.  Totally out of character, Jessica actually faints.

The next day, Jessica goes straight to the police.  She talks to a Detective Jason, who wants her to keep listening in on the phone and report back to him everything she hears.  She also finally, finally makes contact with Mr. Gorgeous, a young guy who works the next building over whose attentions she’s been trying to attract for days.  He introduces himself as Ben Donovan, and he tells her he’s an accountant.  Her interest in him dwindles as he tells her he’s also really into reading and classical music.

When Bill Anderson tells the twins that Rose, the receptionist quit, he assigns Jessica the job of manning the switchboard.  She can’t listen in on the phones while she does this job, but she figures out a way to call her own extension and listen that way.  It isn’t long before she overhears another call by Greenback, and this time, she records his conversation with a Dictaphone.  She plans to show it to Detective Jason later.  But as the conversations continue, she hears Greenback mention a friend in the police station, and undercover cop, and makes a comment about how a “spy” can’t be listening in at the office.  Jessica is worried, but not enough.

Meanwhile, Seth Miller and Elizabeth Wakefield are trying to solve the murder of Tracy Fox, the girl who washed up dead on the beach.  She was found with cocaine on her, and that’s why she ran away from home, according to her mother.  Liz and Seth go all over the place trying to figure out who knew her and why someone wanted to shut her up permanently.  But this is complicated by the fact that Jessica becomes convinced that Seth is Greenback–because he seems to be flush with cash and because the Telex in his office makes a similar noise to something she heard in the background of one of Greenback’s phone calls.

Elizabeth brushes off Jessica’s theory until she remembers that she actually saw Tracy Fox at the Western building shortly before she died.  When they check the visitor’s log, they find out that Tracy was there to see Seth! HOW CONVENIENT!  Elizabeth still isn’t convinced that Seth is Greenback OR a drug dealer, so she asks Jessica to give her some to figure it out.  Jessica agrees to wait until the following Monday.

While Elizabeth talks to Seth about his possible involvement (he mentions that he never met with Tracy but did receive a phone call from a scared-sounding girl), Jessica confides her suspicions in Bill, who tells her they’ll meet back at the office that night and go to the police together.  Jessica doesn’t think this is weird at all and agrees to it.  Liz and Seth meet at the Box Tree Cafe while Jessica goes ALONE to meet with Bill.  Liz and Seth piece together that Bill has moved all over, and every place he’s lived has had a drug-related death.  When they call the police to send help for Jessica, Detective Jason blows them off, so of course they race to save her.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets up with Bill, who is totally high on cocaine (she sees it on his desk) and chases her up onto the roof, where he tells her to jump off the roof with the conveniently-planted coke he wants to place on her.  He’s going to make her death look like a drug-fueled suicide and then frame Seth for the murder.  Wait, what?

LUCKILY Ben Donovan is the real undercover cop, and he arrives on the scene with Elizabeth and Seth.  He manages to save Jessica as Bill dives at her, sending Bill off the roof to his death.  Whatever, this is ridiculous.  Anyway, everything works out okay.  Detective Jason is “detained” for questioning, Ben asks Jessica out, and the twins are treated as heroes.  And we are treated to more didactic rambling about how drugs are bad.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Adam Maitland is still? living with the Wakefields
  • Todd is vacationing elsewhere with his family
  • I had to Google what a Telex is, and it’s basically like a fax machine?  I think?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Not metallic silver,’ Jessica murmured. ‘No matter how you’re shaped, it’s bound to make you look like a station wagon!'” (19)
  • “A violent murder had taken place, right there in the Sweet Valley area.  This kind of story was rare.” (59)
  • “‘If I had my way, you’d be shark bait by now, Jessica Wakefield,’ he rasped. ‘From now on, you’d better keep your mouth, eyes, and ears shut, or I’ll shut ’em for you.'” (116)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m not sure why the timeline of this one bothers me so much.  I mean, it’s not like a completely wonky timeline is so out of the norm for this series.  Maybe it’s the flagrant disregard for continuity?  Like, the publishers didn’t care enough to give the readers a story that makes sense within the bounds of physics?  How do the twins have the Jeep in this one?  How are they still 16 even though it appears to be the summer following junior year?  Why is Todd around but not Sam?  Why is Adam Maitland making an appearance after disappearing for like, 25 books?  WHY?

Also, how dumb are the twins in this one?  The jumping to conclusions, and the complete logic fails make me crazy.  All of it is so contrived and so obviously a way to move the plot pieces around I can hardly stand it.  I’m thinking about this too much.  I should go lie down.

SVH #88: Love Letters for Sale

7 May

lovelettersforsale

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3-4 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Seriously, this book is the worst.

After Lila and Amy complain about having to write letters to relatives, Jessica gets an idea for her latest money-making scheme: a letter writing business in which people can pay her to write letters for them!  She enlists the help of Liz, who wants money to buy Todd a gift, and the two get to work setting up a post office box (so it’s anonymous) and flyers for their business.  They plan to charge $5 per letter.  Despite the fact that this is literally the dumbest thing they’ve ever done because it requires people to write letters about what they want their written letters to say, the business takes off, and the two are soon very busy with their letter-writing business.  Liz writes all the letters while Jessica supervises and handles the “books,” whatever that means.

Because they’re so busy, Liz starts ignoring Todd a lot.  This pisses him off, and he starts spending time with Shelley Novak, who is pissed at her boyfriend Jim because he’s so obsessed with photography.  Shelley gets all moon-eyed about how Todd is the perfect dude and even tells Liz this at one point.  The whole thing is creepy and weird, but whatever.  As Liz spends more time doing the letter writing business and less time doing Todd, Todd grows increasingly frustrated.

Here’s where things get extra convoluted and incredibly boring at the same time: Shelley writes to the twins to write a letter to her crush.  Jessica figures it out and instead of throwing the letter away, changes the details, thinking Liz will tell the girl in question to not pursue another girl’s dude.  Instead, she thinks that anyone as nice-sounding as the boy in question should be deserving of a doting girlfriend, and writes a great love letter.

An incredibly long story short, Shelley sends Todd the letter, Todd decides he wants a girl who appreciates him and sends the letter writing business a request to write a letter to his girlfriend breaking things off and another one to Shelley saying game on.  Jess tries to intercept the letters by not sending them and then when they get sent by pretending to be Liz and begging the mail man not to deliver the letters.  This book is literally the worst.  Of course Liz gets Todd’s letter,  freaks out, starts stuffing her face with food (this is a thing that actually happens in the book), and is generally a total mess.  Jessica asks Sam what to do, and he tells her to come clean about what’s happened.

Meanwhile, Todd and Shelley go out and don’t have that great of a time.  They both realize that they were mostly  upset about their significant others ignoring them and decide figuring out who is behind the letters will solve everything.  At this point, I’m convinced that the ghost writer has forgotten the plot and thinks that the letters are being constructed by Jess and Liz, instead of them parroting out what they were told to write.  Todd lurks at the post office until he sees Jessica go to pick up the mail and confronts her.

He writes one last letter to the business and tells Liz how great she is.  She buys him a letter jacket, they make up.  Then Todd buys her a matching jacket and I throw up.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • The coach of the girl’s basketball team is called Coach Tilman
  • Shelley Novak recently won a $5,000 scholarship for her basketball playing skills.  Did we already know this?
  • There’s a deli called Howard’s that has Todd and Liz’s favorite cheesecake.  Jesus these two are boring.
  • Apparently Annie Whitman and Tony Esteban are “on the outs”
  • Sick of hershey bar brown, Jessica repaints her room purple.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘He wants us to be rude,’ Elizabeth had gasped when she read the letter. ‘Look at the language he uses.'” (36)
  • “Any girl who would ignore someone as great as this guy obviously was–tender and caring, a real sweetheart–deserved to be shaken up a bit.  This guy sounds a lot like Todd, she thought. And anyone who wouldn’t appreciate a guy like Todd, Elizabeth decided, deserves the single life.” (87)
  • “‘Well?’ Elizabeth demanded. ‘Why do you want to go out with someone else?’ ‘I didn’t want to, but you gave me no choice,’ Todd replied defensively.'” (123) WHAT?!

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

…what, really is there to say?  The central premise of the business is actually kind of cool in theory.  But instead of having people call in and dictate what they want said in their letters, which makes so, so much more sense, the twins have people WRITE LETTERS TO BE WRITTEN AGAIN BY SOMEONE ELSE.  As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the client has the option of then RE-WRITING the letter they get so it’s in their own handwriting.  WHY? WHY? WHY?

Talk about middleman bloat.  Or whatever the phrase is that I’m looking for.

Furthermore, what about Liz’s response in this book is at all rational?  She wants to show her boyfriend she cares, so she spends more time away from him?  She doesn’t call Todd out on his completely ridiculous statement that she didn’t give him a choice but to go out with someone else? What?

SVH #85: Soap Star

25 Apr

soap star

Estimated Elapsed Time: 3 weeks

Summary/Overview:

Jessica sees an ad for an audition for her favorite soap, The Young and the Beautiful.  Casting agents are looking for identical twin girls who have that “California” look, so of course she and Liz are perfect for the gig, which is a week-long engagement on the show.  When she begs Liz to audition, though, she’s frustrated by Liz’s lack of interest and apparent disdain at the entire concept of a soap opera.  Despite her cajoling about how it could fund a brand-new Jeep or a “word processor” for Liz, she won’t budge.

After a party at Amy’s, Lila and Jessica come up with a way to get Liz to audition in LA without her knowing.  They send out a formal letter from a fake research company doing a study on identical twins.  When the girls go for the research study, it takes Liz a while to realize they’re sitting in the lobby of a casting call for the soap.  She freaks out and yells at Jessica in front of everyone, including the casting agent.  This woman decides the twins are perfect for the role and offers it to Jessica on the spot.  Um, okay.  When Jessica meets up with Liz at the car to tell her the good news, she can’t believe Liz won’t get excited about it.

While Jessica throws herself into the events the cast goes to, including a luncheon where she hangs all over star Brandon Hunter’s every last word, Elizabeth continues to refuse to do the show.  Jessica panics until she realizes that Liz will be incapable of saying no to an opportunity to write about the show, so Jess sends in some of Liz’s articles to the Los Angeles Times and gets her a limited-run of articles to write for the paper about her experiences on the show.  Liz is mad but also so full of her own self-importance she agrees to do the show in the name of journalism.

The show goes off pretty well for the twins throughout the course of their week-long guest stint.  Brandon Hunter ends up being a terrible actor prone to tantrums when things don’t go his way on set, but Jessica is so enamored with him that she doesn’t see it until she finally overhears him talking about how he’s using her to rocket to stardom.  Then she finally sees the light, but it’s kind of too late, as Sam has accused her of being an insufferable twat with regards to th whole celebrity thing.  Sam is right.

Liz and Jess decide to get even with Brandon on the last day on set.  They deliberately confuse him so he flubs most of his scenes.  When he pitches a fit about how the taping came out, the girls have to record the final scene of the show live.  Instead of sticking to the script and ending up in his character’s arms at the end, Jessica throws a glass of water in his face and declares her love for “Sam,” which, okay?  They get away with this, too, because they’re the Wakefield twins.  Jessica is even offered a permanent role on the show, but she turns it down.

Then there’s a surprise party and Sam and Jessica reconcile.  The world makes sense again.

The B-Plot is essentially one of the longest, weirdest, most didactic ads for Jeep Wrangler I’ve ever read in commercial fiction.  Elizabeth, Todd, and Mr. Wakefield go to the dealership to get the girls a new car.  After talking about all the features of the car, they finally settle on a new/used car (owned by a rental company previously) for the girls.  Yay?

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Jessica reads Hollywood Digest
  • Lila has a “designer” lunch bag, whatever that means.
  • Blech Outfit Alert: Liz wears a pair of peach chinos with a matching oversize shirt, complete with an applique flower on the pocket.
  • Jessica wants a black Jeep with purple sparkly trim, and Elizabeth favors a royal blue one with silver trim.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Well, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to waste their time watching brainless girls with their equally brainless boyfriends act their way through sickeningly sweet and completely unbelievable plots!” (10)
  • “Have you ever heard the dialogue the women characters on the soaps are given? They never use their brains! They misunderstand everything that everyone tells them, and they jump to absurd conclusions about the very people that they should know they can trust.  It makes me sick to watch them.” (82) [Blogger’s note: Is this supposed to be ironic?]

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This book is bonkers.

The basic premise is sort of unbelievable, but whatever, I guess.  Wouldn’t the show’s producers want to cast girls who were at least 18 so they could work around child labor laws?  There’s never any mention of the fact that the twins would only be able to work a little each day, and they would have needed a tutor on set.  It doesn’t matter that it was only for a week–there would have been some discussion of this.  But instead we’re to believe the girls were able to go to LA in the morning, rehearse and film their show, and then make it back in time for afternoon classes at Sweet Valley High?  This makes no sense.

And Ned and Alice are totally cool with the girls missing this much school?  They’re cool with no supervision on set?  Seriously?

 

SVH Super Star: Olivia’s Story

11 Apr

olivia's story

Estimated Elapsed Time: 1 month

Summary/Overview:

Olivia Davidson is obsessed with painting, and she’s particularly focused on abstract impressionism.  She’s taking classes at the Forester School, and it’s there that she meets devoted artist James Yates.  James is the definition of the starving artist, taking classes on scholarship and living in a tiny apartment, often forgoing dinner and wearing threadbare clothes.  All in the name of art, guys.  At any rate, the two start to spend time together, and despite the fact that James is an insufferable twat, Olivia likes him and feels challenged by his devotion to art.

But she’s feeling pressure at home to conform to more “normal” standards.  Her parents are the definition of conservative, and when her aunt June and cousin Emily come to stay with her family while Emily looks at colleges out west, Olivia feels even more like she doesn’t fit in.  It seems as though her straight-laced cousin has her entire life planned, and that freaks Olivia out.  So she asks her mom to get her a part-time job at Simpson’s Department Store, where she promptly runs into the owner’s son, Robert Simpson.  He lets her redo a display and admires her art, but when she shows him her paintings, the only ones he likes are the generic landscape ones.

Olivia continues to hang out with James, but when he brushes off their plans so he can do art, she goes with Robert to a country club party after asking her to dress down a bit.  It’s as awful as you’d expect, and she feels out of place.  However, she keeps making nearly no progress with James, and when she gives him his Christmas present (a paperweight with his initial) and he tells her it’s the emptiest and most meaningless present he’s even received, she storms out.  But then when Robert gives her a planner, she understands what James means and decides to eschew corporate life for a life of art.

Oh, I suppose it helps that her mother takes her aside one day and shows her the paintings from her youth, before she gave it up for a business degree.  She has a business degree and she’s a manager at a department store?  Really?  That was her life’s dream?  By the end of the story, Olivia and James are together because they love each other and Emily is thinking about going to school in California. I don’t know.   I hated this one.

The B-Plot, if you can call it that, involves Jessica and Elizabeth getting seasonal jobs at Simpson’s Department Store.  Jessica works in the children’s section and Liz wraps gifts.  Jessica sets her sights on Robert, but he’s really only interested in Olivia.  For whatever reason.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Olivia outfit: black leotard and leggins, pink and yellow chiffon skirt, blue checked vest, and an Elvis record in her hair.
  • As if you didn’t know the timeline was fucked: it’s Christmas AGAIN, but Jessica mentions their summer internship at the paper.  FFS.
  • Emily wears a khaki-colored suit and blue espadrilles, because she’s forty

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Paintings are life,’ James answered seriously. ‘Everything else is unimportant–money, living in a fancy house, worrying about the little things.'” (19) 

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

This was a total slog for me to get through.  Sometimes I struggle with the regular books featuring tertiary characters, but this one had an extra 60 pages or so, and it was AWFUL.  Olivia isn’t interesting.  I remember her being more interesting as a child, but her wishy-washy feelings on everything in this one and complete lack of self awareness or a sense of humor make this a total bore.

Also, the twins have never felt so awkwardly inserted in a story line before.  There was no need for them to be in this one, apart from any fear that it wouldn’t be a “real” SVH novel without their presence.

Finally, is this like the 8th Christmas of their junior year or what?  I’d be willing to suspend some disbelief if there was even a mention of some of the events from past Christmas stories happening concurrently, but there isn’t.  It’s like each one of these Christmas books takes place in a vacuum.  These books are so weird!